This week’s parashah is Parashat Nasso. Nasso means to ‘raise up’. It shares the same Hebrew root with the word Nasi which means a ‘Community Leader’, or in modern Hebrew a ‘President’. The linguistic connection is clear: Good leadership ‘raises up’ the community.
The past week has been a troubling time for those of us who want to teach our children good lessons about leadership. We have witnessed examples of people who are meant to be custodians and leaders in the community behave in ways that are reprehensible. But, we have also witnessed fine examples of leadership. We saw the family of George Floyd, in the midst of their grief, call for peaceful demonstrations. We saw former American presidents and military leaders make important statements against anti-Black racism. We saw them make rare and pointed statements to protect the rule of law against the unjustifiable use of force. What lessons about leadership can we glean from this? We can remind our children that leadership is a matter of how we act, not only our title or position. We can remind them that leaders are people who ‘raise up,’ rather than ‘tear down.’ Leaders bring people together in mutual understanding, appreciation, and respect. Leaders stand up for what is right, even in the midst of their own pain. In parashat Nasso, each Nasi, each tribal leader, offers precisely the same contributions to the community. One by one, for 12 days, each Nasi came forth, offering the very same contribution in the very same quantities. Here is another message: leadership works when all sectors of the community are enabled to contribute in equal measure. A community thrives when there is fair and equal opportunity for leadership.
Earlier this week we shared some resources created by leaders — writers, religious leaders, and others — who help us ‘raise’ our consciousness concerning racism and inequality. Here are some additional resources as well.
This Shabbat, and in the days to come, may we all seek ways to be a ‘Nasi,’ one who ‘raises up’ the community through education, leadership and a commitment to equality.